Meseznikov: Steps must be taken to cope with tourism spike

18,000 more hotel rooms needed as record number of visitors expected this year as occupancy rates in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv neared 90% in October.

eilat generic (photo credit: Jerusalem Post Archives)
eilat generic
(photo credit: Jerusalem Post Archives)
As the number of tourists to Israel is expected to reach an all-time high this year, Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov (Israel Beiteinu) warned on Tuesday that a shortage of hotel rooms in Israel will “severely affect the demand for incoming tourism” in years to come, urging action on the part of government bodies to speed up new hotel construction.
His statement in a press release came out a day before the topic of hotel room shortages is to be discussed in the Knesset’s Economic Affairs Committee.
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According to the release, rising tourism numbers in 2010 (30 percent over 2009 or half a million tourists) and the ministry’s target to draw four million tourists in 2012 and five million in 2015, necessitates an additional 18,000 hotel rooms, especially in areas of high demand such as Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and the Lake Kinneret area.
In October, occupancy rates in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv neared 90%, with some hoteliers forced to decline bookings or transfer their guests to other hotels.
In recent months, the minister has repeatedly warned that the shortage in hotel rooms, especially in areas of demand and during peak season, will severely affect the demand for incoming tourism. That, in turn, would adversely affect Israel’s image as a modern, attractive and quality tourism destination. The minister stated that the anticipated damage caused to the Israeli tourism industry, in all its different spheres, from the subsequent loss of income and job cuts, is estimated at tens of millions of dollars a year.
“Within the next few months, another 3,500 new hotel rooms will be added to the country’s existing supply of 44,000. The Tourism Ministry is currently completing a process of allocating grants worth a total of NIS 1.5 billion for the year 2010 to dozens of hotel projects,” read the statement.
“As a response to the shortage and within the framework of the law to encourage capital investment, the Investment Administration in the Tourism Ministry has created several tracks for offering grants and assistance to entrepreneurs for building hotels throughout Israel, with high priority given to Jerusalem and the area around Lake Kinneret. These tracks provide assistance with the construction of new hotels, expanding existing ones and converting buildings into hotels, including those buildings which had previously been used as hotels.”
As regards the severe shortage of hotel rooms in Jerusalem, the Tourism Ministry stated it was formulating a plan to promote projects in the city, which would include increased incentives for entrepreneurs to construct hotels. In Tel Aviv, where there is an expected shortfall of 4,000 rooms in relation to ministry targets, the ministry is promoting the preparation of registered title on land for tourism and the conversion of residential and commercial buildings into hotels.
“Steps must immediately be taken in order to prevent irreversible damage to incoming tourism – by transferring the authority for marketing land for tourism to the Tourism Ministry, differentiation in grants to entrepreneurs, renewing the track for attractions and updating the map of the national priority areas for tourism,” Meseznikov said.